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by Slow Food USA intern Carol Dacey-Charles

HR 2749—The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009—has passed through committee and is on its way to the House of Representatives for a vote before the July 4 holiday break. Now, given the recent and on-going challenges our food system has faced with recalls of peanuts, pistachios, spinach and tomatoes, not to mention mad cow and swine flu—you may think a little more regulation might be in order and I would agree with you. But how much of this is a good step forward in protecting the public and how much is using a sledgehammer to put up a tack?

The Act gives the FDA some powers that you might want in a food regulatory agency—the power to order a food recall, access to a farmer’s or producer’s records, and establishing a means to trace food along it’s chain of production. Other aspects of the new bill may make you think Big Brother is about to take over our food system. Among the “Alarming Provisions” of the bill (as reported in the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund site) are: giving the FDA the power to quarantine a geographical area–prohibiting all food movement in that region; empowering the FDA to dictate how crops are raised and harvested; and the narrow definition of a “farm” that would be excluded from these new fees and regulations–it turns out if you make cheese, bread or use lacto-fermentation you are a manufacturer and not a farm. How many growers at your local farmer’s market create value-added products to boost their incomes–probably no longer if this bill passes in its current form.